AUGUST 17, 10:59am: The original article at ESPN.com on Wade and the Bulls has been updated (hat tip to Blog A Bull) — without a source to confirm his initial claim, Friedell no longer suggests a buyout is “expected.” While Friedell has backed off that assertion, he still says that “nobody would be surprised” if Wade decides he wants out of Chicago and reaches a buyout agreement with the team in the next few months.
AUGUST 16, 3:18pm: Few NBA teams are expected to drop in the standings this season like the Bulls, who lost two of their top players this summer when they traded Jimmy Butler and waived Rajon Rondo. The third member of last season’s “three alphas” – Dwyane Wade – also isn’t long for Chicago, according to Nick Friedell of ESPN, who writes that Wade and the Bulls are expected to reach a buyout agreement at some point in the coming months.
Wade, who inked a two-year deal with the Bulls in 2016, had a player option for the 2017/18 season, giving him the opportunity to head elsewhere in free agency if he so chose. Wade opted in before the Bulls traded Butler and cut Rondo, though it’s not clear if those moves would have impacted his decision anyway — exercising his player option puts Wade in line to earn $23.8MM this season, and he wouldn’t have matched that annual salary if he’d opted out and signed a new contract.
Still, shortly after Wade opted in and the Bulls opted to rebuild, rumors begin to swirl about a possible buyout. For their part, the Bulls have attempted to put those rumors to rest. Executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson suggested in June that any buyout agreement would have to be “advantageous” to the franchise, and head coach Fred Hoiberg said last month that he didn’t expect Wade to be bought out.
At the time Hoiberg made his comments in July, Friedell indicated there was a “widespread belief” among Bulls officials that Wade wouldn’t be willing to give up enough of his $23.8MM salary to make a buyout worthwhile for the club. Considering Friedell is now writing that an agreement is expected to happen at some point in the next few months, he may have heard something in recent weeks that influenced his view on the subject, though it’s worth noting that he doesn’t cite any sources.
There’s no real deadline for the Bulls and Wade to reach a buyout agreement, though veterans are generally bought out before March 1 so that they retain their playoff eligibility. As Friedell details, Chicago has shifted to full-fledged rebuilding mode and shouldn’t mind finishing among the NBA’s cellar-dwellers in 2017/18. Parting ways with Wade would help out the Bulls in their race to the bottom, so it’s possible the team won’t wait until February to explore a buyout.